Saturday, March 29, 2014

V for Vendetta - Dir. James McTeigue (2005)

V for Vendetta (2005)
Dir. James McTeigue

F for Fake
Jack Knorps

This will be short.  Sometimes I like to review the films made from the books I review.  I watched V for Vendetta last night and I just have to say a few things about it.

My #1 complaint about this film is that it takes serious artistic liberties with the source material.  Here are all of the things I can remember that were different from the book:

In the very first scene, Evey Hammond is not trying to prostitute herself, but is looking for her "uncle," which makes the scene with the Fingermen much more hackneyed.  She does not work in a sweat shop, but instead works for a news program.  There is no radio program, as in the book, but it is changed to this news program.  Derek Almond and his wife Rosemary do not exist in the film.  The leader, Adam Susan, has had his named changed to Adam Sutler.  Dascomb does not work for the radio program, but is still part of Norsefire, and does not die.  Ally Harper, the Scottish crime boss, does not exist.  Gordon Dietrich is not a petty thief, but a TV personality who hosts a variety show.  Lewis Prothero does not go insane, traumatized by the burning of his dolls--he just gets killed.  "Old Bailey" is blown up at the beginning--not Parliament, which gets blown up at the end.  V does not take out the surveillance system of England, but instead ships hundreds of thousands of masks for people to wear and escape detection.  Oh, also Finch doesn't take LSD and "kill" V.  

Now I did not think the book was truly that amazing, but I felt the film would have been better if it had stuck more closely to it.  I can't think of any reason why so much was changed except that this is more "accessible" for American audiences/2005 audiences.  

This really isn't a terrible film, to be honest, but it's one that you can't really enjoy after reading the book (in my opinion).  I do think Natalie Portman does a very good job at playing Evey Hammond, and think Hugo Weaving makes for an excellent V.  I also enjoyed Stephen Fry as Roger Dietrich--that was the only change that I think was an improvement over the book (as Dietrich is not very well developed in the book).  There is also a nice "aha moment" when John Hurt first appears as Adam Sutler, who is obviously modeled after "Big Brother."  Most viewers probably won't know that Hurt played Winston Smith in the film adaptation of 1984, so this is a nice (albeit troubling) bit of casting.  (Still, I prefer Adam Susan in the book to Adam Sutler in the movie, because Susan is less of a cookie-cutter totalitarian leader).  

The most noteworthy sequence--where Evey is tortured and has her head shaved--is 100% true to the book.  Maybe this is why it's one of the best parts of the film too.  Valerie Harper's story is beautifully evoked on film, and you can also chart the time differentials from the adaptation (it's not a dystopian 1997/1998, but more like 2018 or so).  Some of the shots from this sequence seem directly lifted from the page--and this is where adaptations of graphic novels can be nearly as powerful as their source material.

But the climax of the film is false as compared to the book.  The entire film itself is relatively dark, but a lot of times it just seems "cartoony."  I found the ending to be rather sugar-coated in comparison with the book.

Basically that is all I wanted to say.  And while I think the adaptation of Watchmen has nothing on the book--I found that much more faithful, and a better film overall.  I am a bit shocked that this film's rating on IMDB is 8.2 and that it is rated the #148 film out of the top 250.  It also got a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  By contrast, Watchmen is at 65% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.6 on IMDB.  Regardless, the films serve their purpose.  While Alan Moore may not watch them, most people that read either one will probably have their curiosity piqued just enough to check them out.  Thus, like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games et al., on a much smaller scale, these films turn the story into an even more successful "product."  Unfortunately they also detract from its artistic cache.  In today's world though, it seems likely that most writers/artists would rather produce the next Divergent than the next Watchmen.  We're all just too damn poor.  

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